CHAIR OF YOUTH JUSTICE BOARD TO LEAD REVIEW OF PAIN-INDUCING RESTRAINT ON CHILDREN

In a letter this week to Shadow Children’s Minister Emma Lewell-Buck MP, Justice Minister Edward Argar MP announced that Charlie Taylor has been appointed to lead a review of the authorisation of pain-inducing restraint on children detained in young offender institutions and secure training centres, and during escort to these prisons and secure children’s homes.

The announcement comes days after we lodged our judicial review application with the High Court challenging the Government’s decision to allow escort officers working for the private contractor GEOAmey to inflict pain on children during their journeys to and from secure children’s homes. Staff working within secure children’s homes are prohibited from using such techniques, which Department for Education statutory guidance states can never be proportionate.

Article 39 is also challenging the lack of legal protection for children from being physically restrained simply to follow orders when they are under the control of escort officers, including when they attend hospital appointments or family funerals. The Court of Appeal has declared restraint for good order and discipline within secure training centres a breach of children’s right to protection from inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

Argar’s letter says the Chair of the Youth Justice Board “will bring excellent knowledge and experience after leading the Government’s comprehensive review of youth justice in 2016, and spending much of his career in various educational and behaviour management roles”.

Article 39’s Director, Carolyne Willow, states:

We are naturally delighted that there is a possibility that pain-inducing restraint of children could be removed from all custodial settings. Deliberately causing children mental and physical suffering has no professional place in education, health and social care environments, and we have consistently argued that children should have the same protection from violence wherever they are placed.

“Charlie Taylor leads an organisation which has historically stood isolated on this issue in not opposing pain-inducing restraint. From the appalling death of 14 year-old Adam Rickwood, who hanged himself after he was inflicted with a sharp blow to the nose – which was then an authorised restraint technique – onwards, the Youth Justice Board has traditionally failed to put its weight behind complete cultural change in custodial institutions. The YJB like many of those working within and around the penal estate have hitherto shown themselves incapable of seeing that children can be looked after without recourse to severe violence as a form of restraint. However, the organisation seems to be changing under Taylor’s leadership. His background in education could prove pivotal during this review since the culture and practice of schools working with children who have similar needs to those who end up in custody is markedly different from prisons. It would be fantastic for Taylor’s review to finally bring an end to the pain-inducing restraint of children.

“We don’t yet know the scope and timeframe of this review. It is over 14 years since Adam left behind a note saying he had asked officers what gave them the right to hit a child in the nose, and they said it was restraint. I have long given up on this being treated with any sense of urgency though, of course, every day that Ministers allow officers to deliberately hurt children is a day too long.”

In 2009, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment recommended the UK stop the use of pain-compliant restraint techniques in child prisons. The same recommendation has been made by the UN Torture Committee, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the UK’s four Children’s Commissioners. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, the Association of Directors of Children, the NSPCC and parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights have similarly opposed the use of deliberate pain during the restraint of children.

Article 39 is represented by Dan Squires QC and Tamara Jaber from Matrix Chambers and Mark Scott from Bhatt Murphy Solicitors. Its legal challenge was only made possible through a crowdfunding appeal, which elicited nearly 200 donations.

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